We had a little drama last night, when I received a call from Mrs andrewdoronin that she was stuck at the side of a road and needed help getting home. I thought to share a ‘real life’ story that might help prepare you by reading, and me by listening to feedback, for this event happening to you.
Are you safe?
The first question that any roadside assistance asks is the same one that loved ones wonder. Are you in a safe place, and if not, let’s get true emergency services to you first. Luckily, they were in a safe spot, being able to pull in off the road, but still, I was quite worried about them both, since it was getting late.
Roadside assistance providers appear to outsource a lot
I think that this varies by location, but it was quite clear last night that all three of the firms that I spoke with would be farming out the business to a local shop. This fact made it quite interesting (and a little frustrating) to hear how they all dealt with the same situation, using their internal systems.
We have a lot of credit cards, so there’s a chance I forgot one and could have got free service (it will be free anyway, but more on that later) however, my goal was to get something out to my family as fast as possible, so a fee didn’t bother me that much.
In terms of coverage, I first checked my Altitude Reserve, since this is my premium credit card (I tend to hold only one $400+ fee card per year, such as the Amex Platinum, or the AA Executive) I was disappointed to hear that they didn’t offer this service, but I have a nagging feeling that they do, since the Visa Infinite program that is associated with the Altitude likely has something here.
I did some fast searching, and grabbed an Amex from my desk, we had just applied for a Delta Amex Gold, and they would provide Roadside Assistance for a ‘co-pay’ of $62.50 for the first 10 miles, then a few bucks a mile beyond that. I took them up on it, describing the location of the car (it was a scenic overlook that shows up on Google Maps) but while the rep could locate the car, they couldn’t guarantee service. The arrival time was quoted at 55 minutes, but that firm then cancelled when they heard we had a 3yr old in the car.
Does our car insurance cover this?
I got a text from Mrs S asking if we were covered under our car insurance policy, I wasn’t sure, so I asked Amex if I could cancel before their service arrived. My strategy here was to have them work behind the scenes to get service out there, while I checked with other options, then if I was able to get our insurance company, StateFarm, to come out, I would cancel Amex for no charge.
State Farm proved to be useless. While I did have Roadside Assistance, they wouldn’t dispatch service without an ‘address’. While we were both looking at the same location on Google Maps, the operator stated they couldn’t get anything to us without a street number. I grew a little exasperated at this point and asked them to help me figure it out. The call dropped, either by them hanging up, or by chance, and I never heard back.
What about third party coverage?
While Amex was hunting for a provider, and I was on the phone with StateFarm, I recalled that we may have family coverage with Allstate too, so I asked Mrs S to call them. She had similar problems talking with a human* there, and they refused to help because they stated that they were in a “State Park” and roadside assistance wasn’t allowed to come out. That call also dropped out.
Nobody gives a crap
We both lost our calls at around the same time (perhaps it was a sunspot?) so we circled back, at this time, Amex came back to us with a 45 minute arrival. We took it. What annoyed me was that I had just told StateFarm that my wife and child were stranded at the side of a road, and they didn’t even care to call back when the call dropped. Allstate did the same.
Once I knew that we had help inbound I called StateFarm back to complain, this wasn’t a fake complaint to get compensation, this was a genuine, “Why the F don’t you care about my family being stranded?” They apologized, and ensured that the rep would be educated and that I could claim the full amount of the pickup via reimbursement.
The family came home safe and sound, and after a lot of hugs we called it a night. When discussing the ‘why’ I called StateFarm, we decided that Allstate needed a call to. Unlike StateFarm, who were professional and apologetic about the incident, Allstate told me the reason nobody called back is that my wife had only spoken with a computer, not a human*. I called them out on this, and they apologized, and also promised to change the way that they deal with roadside assistance (aka blowed smoke up my backside) and also gave me an address to mail in for reimbursement.
- We have too much coverage, and should cancel Allstate and edit Car Insurance coverage to save a few bucks each year, but it’s not a huge deal, so on the sometime/maybe list.
- If you encounter soulless, untrained humans* when you have coverage from Car Insurance etc, then you can hang up and call someone else. The priority is getting the family home safely, then you can bill the charge to the company that should have done the job right.
- Buy a car charging battery with USB outlets. We got something like this one not sure if it is the same model, but same idea. This can jump start your car, but also allowed Mrs S to keep her phone powered up via USB ports without using the car, super important.
Leverage and ‘cashing in on misery’
I could take the time to figure out if I should have had coverage with the Altitude, and then I could call up to get a bit of ‘goodwill’ but it isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. There are opportunities to benefit from bad situations, but also, I think it is important to not let that line of thinking pervade every decision. That’s just me though. As it is, we got a tow home, and another tow from home to the shop, and a rental car at 0.2x the discount rate via insurance to keep us going until we figure out if we need to start running Lease vs Buy spreadsheets.